Medical Alerts for Seniors with Lymphedema

Medical Alerts for Seniors with Lymphedema

time icon 5 min read update icon Sept. 28, 2019


Lymphedema is a condition that often occurs after surgery or treatment for cancer. If lymph nodes have been removed, a blockage in the lymph system may occur, causing swelling in the affected limb. Although there is no cure, lymphedema can be managed with careful monitoring.

Lymphedema Overview

Lymphedema is a condition in which swelling occurs in the arms and/or legs. It is most often the result of the removal of or damage to lymph nodes. Surgeries to remove lymph nodes are part of certain cancer treatments. The removal of the nodes can cause blockages which prevent lymph fluid from draining properly.

As a result, the fluid remains in the arm or leg, causing swelling. The amount of swelling can vary from very little to large amounts that affect your ability to lead a normal life.

Lymphedema Impairment

Swelling from lymphedema will occur in an affected arm or leg after surgery or radiation treatments. If you have recently had surgery that involved the lymph nodes, you may be at risk of lymphedema. A person suffering from lymphedema will experience several impairments. They include:

  • Restricted range of motion of the affected limb. It may be difficult to move the arm, or even the fingers, which will make tasks requiring fine motor skills difficult. A swelling in the leg will make walking difficult. Toes may swell and inhibit walking, as well.
  • Aching or pain in the limb, a feeling of heaviness or tightness. As swelling increases, the limb will feel heavy and uncomfortable, sometimes causing pain. If the skin on the limb is dry it can crack, causing more pain.
  • Infections in the limb which can recur. People with lymphedema may experience serious infections of the skin or lymph system. Any small injury to the limb can be an entry point for an infection. Lymphedema patients are urged to make skin and nail care a high priority.
Medical Alert Benefits

Even though there is no cure for lymphedema, it should be treated as soon as possible and monitored carefully. Sudden changes, such as an increase in swelling, or if the arm or leg looks red and feels hot, can be signs of a blood clot or infection. In these cases, having a medical alert system available could be useful. Symptoms of lymphedema include:

  • Swelling of a part of the body (arm, leg, belly or genitals)
  • Feeling of fullness or heaviness
  • Skin changes texture and may become red
  • Pain or tingling in the area
  • Loss of flexibility
  • Recurring infections

Of these symptoms, the most dangerous are the swelling and recurring infections. Should you experience a sudden change in these symptoms, you should get help as soon as you can. A medical alert system could be a great advantage if the need arises.

Safety Without Medical Alerts

Lymphedema has no cure, but does require continual monitoring. If treated early, it can be managed.

  • It is recommended that a person with this condition try to do gentle exercise on a regular basis. This can help to ease the swelling and encourage drainage from the limb. It is also a good idea to give the limb a significant resting period.
  • People with lymphedema need to be cautious and keep the affected limb from being pierced for any reason. Talk to your doctor about your condition if you need an injection or bloodwork, and be careful to protect the area from cuts and scrapes.
  • Avoid putting a blood pressure cuff on an affected arm.
  • An affected limb should be kept out of unusually hot baths or showers. Don’t use heating pads or hot compresses on the affected side.
Lymphedema Precautions:

There are many additional precautions that can help you to prevent lymphedema flare-ups.

  • It is recommended that the affected limb be moisturized daily to keep skin soft and prevent cracking.
  • Wear gloves for activities where your limb could be injured, such as gardening, cleaning, cooking and grilling.
  • Avoid using a traditional razor for shaving. Instead, use an electric razor or cream hair-remover.
  • Protect your limb from sunburn by using sunscreen.
  • Avoid strenuous activities, especially immediately after treatment.
Lymphedema Medical Alerts Conclusion

In general, lymphedema can be controlled if monitored on a regular basis. Eating healthy foods, quitting smoking and limiting alcohol are all positive lifestyle changes that can help. If you need additional support, ask your doctor to refer you to a specialist. If you have trouble keeping your lymphedema under control, you might find having a medical alert system to be a wise idea. It can give you peace of mind and provide quick access to medical help if you are experiencing a flare-up of your condition.

Donna McDurfee - Senior Advisor

Donna is senior researcher with Grandfolk® providing in-depth product and service reviews to empower senior buying decisions.